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Ainge: ‘Great Feeling’ That C’s Are Favorites

September 28, 2018

Danny Ainge, Boston's president of basketball operations, feels good about his team heading into the 2018-19 season. AP PHOTO Sun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.

BOSTON -- Danny Ainge offered some breaking news when asked his impressions of Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward as they come back from injuries.

“Just in case you didn’t know, those guys are really good,” revealed the Celtics president of basketball operations as his team went through its second session of the day last night on the courts one floor down at the Auerbach Center.

Coming back to serious, Ainge added, “Least of our worries. Obviously health is always an issue with all our players, but those guys look great. They’ve worked hard in the offseason on their rehab.”

As for what he’s looking forward to most with Irving back from his knee maintenance issues that necessitated a second surgery when an infection was found, Ainge said, “I think just having Kyrie’s leadership around the whole year, having him be on the court. He did a lot of good things, like texting the players. He was the biggest cheerleader for Jaylen (Brown) and Jayson (Tatum) and Terry (Rozier) and Marcus (Smart/Morris) and all those guys last year when he wasn’t playing.

“But just having him on the court at the end of games is the thing I’m looking most forward to and having a guy that can beat switches and make shots and make lots of plays. He’s a very special player.”

Ainge is getting no additional pleasure from the fact Irving is talking more about his future in Boston beyond this season in recent interviews. This after being fairly coy about his plans after he does as expected and opts out of his deal next summer to sign a more lucrative and lengthy contract.

“I don’t think that’s ever a change of tune,” Ainge said. “I’ve talked to Kyrie a lot. Maybe he’s changed his tune with you (media), but he has been very positive from the day he got here. I talk to Kyrie all the time, his representation. I think Kyrie is very happy here in Boston, always has been. That will hopefully make this a place he wants to stay much longer once the season ends.”

When the conversation switched to Brown and the fact he’ll be up for an extension next summer, Ainge said, “Come on, don’t start that, going into the offseason. Wait until next season to start that. We have a long time. We have a good roster, ownership is paying a lot of money for this roster, and we know we have financial decisions to make in the future.”

For now, he’s happy with the decisions he’s made to create the current club.

“I feel good about our roster,” Ainge said. “We have a lot of depth, guys that can fill in. We showed the depth that we had last year, and it could be even better this year. We have a deep roster and I think we’re ready for anything.”

Ready for being the favorite to represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals?

“Yeah, it’s a different mindset,” Ainge said. “I think it’s easier to play as an underdog and with lower expectations, and I think it’s more challenging because of what you’re going to face. As a favorite and as a team that was in the final four last year, we’re going to be a team that people are gunning for more. We’re going to see the best that our opponents have. And I think our players know that.”

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